“The goal of the Toyota Research Institute is to bridge the gap between fundamental research and product development, particularly of life saving and life improving technologies,” Gill Pratt, the new head of the aforementioned institute, said at a news conference, according to PCWorld.
Toyota plans on establishing two research campuses, one in Silicon Valley and the other near MIT in Massachusetts. While actual plans for research remain vague, at least to the public, Toyota will presumably explore how A.I. can help drivers navigate without crashing into things.
Toyota also likely wants to stay competitive with the likes of Google and Uber, which have made no secrets of their interest in artificial intelligence as it applies to driving. Google already has “driverless vehicles” on the streets of Mountain view, California and Austin, Texas, while Uber recently poached a number of Carnegie Mellon robotics researchers for its own project.
If Google’s experience is any indication, it takes years for any vehicle company to refine the technology necessary to put a driver-free car on the road. With its robust Google Maps, deep backbench of artificial intelligence and hardware experts, and massive influx of funds from its core business, the search-engine giant was uniquely positioned to go the distance in funding the project; it’s an open question whether all its competitors can replicate those advances on their own terms.
Meanwhile, those tech pros interested in working with self-driving cars can still find ways into this burgeoning sub-industry—even if they don’t have artificial-intelligence experience.